In London, wealthy Margot Mary Wendice had a brief love affair with the American writer Mark Halliday while her husband and professional tennis player Tony Wendice was on a tennis tour. Tony quits playing to dedicate to his wife and finds a regular job. She decides to give him a second chance for their marriage. When Mark arrives from America to visit the couple, Margot tells him that she had destroyed all his letters but one that was stolen. Subsequently she was blackmailed, but she had never retrieved the stolen letter. Tony arrives home, claims that he needs to work and asks Margot to go with Mark to the theater. Meanwhile Tony calls Captain Lesgate (aka Charles Alexander Swann who studied with him at college) and blackmails him to murder his wife, so that he can inherit her fortune. But there is no perfect crime, and things do not work as planned. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The characters often enter and leave by the French doors to the garden of what we are told is the Wendices' ground-floor flat. Yet, when we see the exterior of the building, there is a basement flat, which of course would be on the ground level and have the garden. The Wendices' flat would be what is known as a raised-ground-floor flat--it is at the top of a short flight of outdoor steps, but it is not literally on the ground. See more »
Undoubtedly, "Dial M for Murder" has a clever plot: Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) plans "the perfect murder" to do away with his wife Margot (Grace Kelly), who cheated on him with novelist Mark (Robert Cummings). He blackmails an old schoolmate into committing the crime and plants clues to mislead the police. But when things don't go according to plan, Tony has to plant new clues and think of another explanation to give the detectives, so that suspicion doesn't fall on him.
The trouble is, the plot is the only interesting thing about this movie, and the characters are defined solely by how they can affect the plot. For instance, Mark writes mystery novels only because this explains his ability to "read" the crime scene. Most of the movie's dialogue is expository: long scenes where the characters debate the minutiae of evidence found at the scene, without an interesting subtext. The movie is known for taking place almost entirely in the Wendices' living room, and Hitchcock does a good job of varying the camera angles to make you forget there's just one set. But he did this even better in "Rear Window," his other 1954 film.
Admittedly, Milland gives an enjoyable performance as the villaintruly a guy you love to hate, a clever and smiling sociopath. But Kelly and Cummings are surprisingly boring for a pair of adulterous lovers. Kelly also proves herself the ancestor of all those female horror- movie characters who go investigating strange noises in their best lingerie.
"Dial M for Murder" is lightweight without actually being funnya fatal combination. Though serious concerns (adultery, murder, the death penalty) underlie the story, we're never made to feel that they are really consequential. It's a cold and mechanical movie, which subordinates everything else to the demands of an intricate plot. Contrast this with something like "Rear Window," whose plot is simple and lacking in twists, but whose characters are vividly drawn and act as though their stories really meant something. Having a clever solution to a mystery does not a great movie make.
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